About the poet
Brian Johnstone is a Scottish poet, born in Edinburgh in 1950. He lives in Fife with his wife,...
Something tolls, dead in the water,
from sixty years back; chimes
in the stonework of the brain
the way a mother's voice is never
quite forgotten, the sounds of childhood
carry through somehow. And you
look downwards at the brink, knowing
that the eddies washing on this shore
have inhabited what's left of life
that quit this valley by decree.
The banking stretches out behind you;
notices on poles advise against
a list of things from which the years
have cut you off, the way these waters have
from house and plot, familiar homes,
the chapel where you pumped the organ
for the psalms. Ignored, the gables rise
like bibles in a rack from where
you always knew they would, in time.
And now the drought has dropped
the level of the water twenty feet, enough
to recognise where lanes had been,
how houses all had hunkered in together,
formed the township that you left
to which you have returned, a memory
in someone else's book: an old man
staring out across this reservoir, as deep
in thought as are the sounds
of church bells, accents, running water,
steeped in sixty years of loss.
from Dry Stone Work (Arc Publications 2014), © Brian Johnstone 2014, used by permission of the author and the publisher
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